DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF ST. JOHN, ARCHBISHOP OF SHANGHAI AND SAN FRANCISCO
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ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN WITNESS (USPS 412-260)
is published monthly by St. Nectarios American Orthodox Cathedral,
10300 Ashworth Avenue North, Seattle, Washington 98133-9410.
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to
OCW, 10300 Ashworth Ave. N., Seattle, WA. 98133-9410
Fr. Neketas S. Palassis, Editor Email: frneketas@stnectariospress.com
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Fax: 206-523-0550

OCTOBER, 2006, Vol. XL, No. 10 (1565)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1. THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH
2. A DICHOTOMY OF FAITH
3. THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS
4. PROPHECIES OF ST. COSMAS AITOLOS
5. NEW ITEMS FROM THE BOOK CENTER

The more closely attentive you are to your mind, the greater the longing with which you will pray to Jesus; and the more carelessly you examine your mind, the further you will separate yourself from Him. Just as close attentiveness brilliantly illumines the mind, so the lapse from watchfulness and from the sweet invocation of Jesus will darken it completely. All this happens naturally, not in any other way; and you will experience it if you test it out in practice. For there is no virtue - least of all this blessed light-generating activity - which cannot be learnt from experience.

St Hesychius, On Watchfulness & Holiness, Philokalia



1. THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Keeping faith with Christ yesterday, today, and unto the ages
One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism
One God and Father of all

The Orthodox Christian Church can clearly trace its roots historically back to the first Church in Jerusalem, where the Church began and the Apostle James was the first bishop. Then, as the Church spread into Antioch, Alexandria and eventually all parts of the world, those who were ordained by the Apostles and their successors continued to spread and guard the Christian faith into the next and succeeding generations, down to the present time. Many of the early successors to the Apostles wrote letters to their flocks, just as the Apostles had done. In these letters, they explain and teach the faith as they received it from the Apostles. These writings can still be read today and include such names as Polycarp, Ignatius, Iraeneus, Clement, Cyril, Athanasius, Basil, and Chrysostom. The Orthodox Church traces its life and teachings from the Apostles, through their successors, to the present day, holding the same Faith unchanged.
The Orthodox Church has given birth to millions of believers through the centuries. It has also offered up millions of martyrs under Idolator, Muslim and Communist governments. Over 200 million people, mostly in Russia, Greece and the Balkans, claim to be Orthodox today.
Many people are not aware that for the first 1,000 years of Church history there was only one Christian Church in the entire world holding the same doctrine, the same worship, and the same way of life and government. The myriad of new and conflicting groups that exist today, all claiming to be the various Churches of Christ, is a modern phenomenon, unknown in the early Church. For those first 1,000 years, the Church was simply known as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The word Orthodox was added later to distinguish those who continued to hold the Apostolic Faith unchanged from those who were introducing changes yet still calling themselves the Christian Church. The word Orthodox means true teaching and true worship - the glory of the Church.
Likewise, many are not aware that all the questions and debates about what the Christian Faith is or isn't, and what the Church should or shouldn't believe and teach, and how the Bible should or shouldn't be interpreted have already been decided by the Church in the first 1,000 years. When questions and debates arose about various beliefs, the Church's bishops, the successors to the Apostles, gathered in councils to clarify what the Church had received from the Apostles and held from the beginning. The first such council is recorded already in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and is known as the Council of Jerusalem. This became the pattern for resolving debates and questions. Over the next several hundred years there were seven such major or worldwide councils and numerous local councils that clarified and explained the true and correct understanding of the Christian Faith. From these councils came the Christian understanding of the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, the determination of which books to include in the New Testament, and many other clarifications and explanations of the Orthodox Christian Faith.
Christ the Savior taught that He would build His Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. He also told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church into all truth. Because of faith in the promises of Christ, Orthodox Christians believe that the Church which Christ established has been preserved in unity by the Holy Spirit down through the centuries and will exist to the end of time among those who hold the Apostolic doctrine, worship, and way of life unchanged.
But today there are about as many different understandings and interpretations of the Bible and the Christian Faith as there are people. From Martin Luther, to Charles Finney, to Alexander Campbell, to Joseph Smith, to Benny Hinn and countless others, with new ones appearing everyday, there are thousands of different interpretations of the Bible. Because of individual interpretations, there are also thousands of different groups and denominations. Each one claims to be the Church of Christ, to follow nothing but the Bible, and to be led by the same Holy Spirit even though they hold different and conflicting beliefs. We know this cannot be true since the Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself, and, according to the Bible itself, there is only one Christian Faith and one Christian Church just as there is only one true God. Someone has jokingly but correctly quipped, "The Reformation rejected the pope but ended up making as many popes as there are individuals."
In the final analysis our own personal beliefs and interpretations about the Christian Faith matter very little. One may be as good or as bad as another. What is important is what the Church has always taught and held unchanged from the beginning to the present.
The Church has always taught that truth is not determined by individual opinions or by "private interpretations" (II Peter 1:20) but by that truth which the Holy Spirit established through the Apostles that has been preserved and handed down through the Church unchanged in each succeeding generation to the present day. The Bible calls this the "Faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) and tells us to hold fast to the Apostolic Tradition that has been handed down, both spoken and written (II Thess. 2:15). To allow for numerous different Christian Faiths and numerous private interpretations is to render the Christian Faith relative and uncertain. To reduce the truth to just one or a few beliefs would mean that much of what Christ and the Apostles taught is of little or no value or importance, as would be their teachings about the Church, how we are saved, and how we are to work out our salvation within the Church. Furthermore, it would ignore the teachings of Christ Himself who told His Apostles to make disciples by "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20).
From the earliest recorded history of the Church, we see that the beliefs of the Church were set forth in creeds or statements of faith (creed simply means "I believe") in order to clarify the teachings and make it easy for people to understand and remember. The major and universal creed of the Church was hammered out by the first two Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils at Nicea in A.D 325 and at Constantinople A.D. 381, by some of the same bishops who also determined and confirmed which books would be included in the New Testament. The Nicene Creed was in response to those who taught things about Christ and the Holy Spirit that were contrary to the Apostolic Teachings. The Nicene Creed acted as a fence to guard the True Faith of the Church and provides a brief summary of the teachings of the Orthodox Christian Church.

Taken from the new publication of the same name by the Holy Orthodox Church in North America.
The entire pamphlet is available from St. Nectarios Press

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2. A DICHOTOMY OF FAITH
by Joseph Bragg

The involvement of many bishops in Ecumenism and Modernism is a great betrayal of the Orthodox Faith that has resulted in much confusion in the world of Orthodoxy.
This confusion centers on how to deal with and respond to bishops who teach and promote things that contradict and betray the Orthodox Faith.  Some say we must separate ourselves from false bishops while others say it is enough to simply protest.  Others try to ignore them and go on as though the bishop doesn't matter.
In Protestantism, bishops don't matter.  Each local congregation is pretty much independent and if there is an affiliation with a larger group, the opinions of the leadership are pretty much ignored and viewed as private opinions if people at the local level don't like what they do or say.
But the Orthodox understanding of the role of the bishop is very different.  The office of the bishop is understood to be an Apostolic institution necessary to the Faith and Unity of the Church.  There can be no local congregation without a bishop, and local congregations and individuals are not at liberty to hold a faith different from that of the bishop.
But today, the Protestant understanding of the independence of the local congregation and the individual has been adopted by many in Orthodoxy, resulting in a dichotomy of Faith.
There is actually a dichotomy of Faith that takes place on two levels.

 First, there is a dichotomy of Faith among those who betray the Orthodox Faith.  When speaking to an Orthodox audience, what they say and teach often sounds very Orthodox.  But when speaking to an Ecumenical or political audience, what they say often betrays the Orthodox Faith.  While on the one hand they appear to defend the Orthodox Faith, at the same time they betray it by their words, affiliations, and participation in joint worship services with Roman Catholics, liberal Protestants, and even non-Christian religions. This dichotomy of Faith by priests and bishops results in much confusion among the faithful as to what to believe about their leaders and how to react.
Second, there is a dichotomy of Faith among many who oppose the betrayals of Ecumenism and Modernism. Some give the impression that they can hold their own personal Orthodox Faith on the one hand, and on the other hand remain under bishops whom they know are holding and teaching a contrary Faith.   Some even speak out against the heresies of Ecumenism and Modernism but then remain in communion with and under bishops who promote both even though they know that Holy Scripture, and all the Fathers, and all the Councils, tell us to flee from heresy and have no communion with it.
      Some say they believe in one Church, one Faith, and one Baptism but then they commemorate a patriarch and/or bishop who by his public affiliations, teachings, and practices holds that there are many Churches, many Faiths and many Baptisms.
    Does not our Orthodox Faith teach us that we cannot hold a Faith different from the Faith of our bishop?  That the Faith of the bishop commemorated on our altar is our Faith since we drink from the same cup?  In Orthodoxy, there can be no dichotomy of Faith between our personal Faith and that of our bishop.
The acceptance of the dichotomy of Faith on the part of those who oppose the betrayals of Orthodoxy by their hierarchs seems to grow out of an unrecognized or unintentional Western understanding of the nature of the Church.  Consequently, many in World Orthodoxy say, "We don't believe or approve what our Ecumenist patriarchs and bishops say and practice, but we don't want to upset the unity of the Church.  But does not our Orthodox Faith teach us that the unity of the Church is not derived from an external affiliation and organization but rather by the unity of the Faith as held and publicly confessed by our bishop?  Is it not true that there is no unity of the Church where the Faith of the Church is betrayed?  Is it not the Orthodox understanding that to betray the Orthodox Faith is to separate from the unity of the Church?
     How can these dichotomies of Faith be?  Are they not contrary to the Orthodox Faith?  How can two walk together unless they be agreed?  How can a house divided against itself stand?  Can a fountain bring forth sweet and bitter water at the same time?  Did not St. James warn us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways and urge the double minded to purify their hearts (James 1:8; 4:8).
In the final analysis, it is what we publicly proclaim and confess by our actions and affiliations that reveal our true beliefs more than our words, and it is the Faith of our bishop that determines the Faith that we hold and in which we commune.

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3.  THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS

I will walk among you, and you shall by My people (Lev. 26: 12).
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

In the calendar of Saints of the Orthodox Catholic Church you will find names of men, women and children from every walk of life, the most humble, as well as the most exalted. You will find members of almost every nation, race or tribe, and of every profession and calling. However, there is one thing that they will all share. Each saint in his own personal way walked with God. By reading these lives you will be inspired and moved to do as they did. From them you too can learn how to walk humbly with God. Saint John the Divine reminds us: He who says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same path in which He walked (I John 2:6). Their example is a good example because, first of all and above all, they walked in the same path that Christ Jesus walked.
The Saints and their lives are important to us because in their lives they mirrored the life of Christ. Each Saint received the Light of Christ and reflected it into the world. We know that if a mirror is to reflect an accurate and undistorted image, it must be itself as perfect, clear and pure as possible. The importance of the example of the life of a Saint is directly related to his life as a follower of Christ. No mirror can reflect light unless it is facing the light, so all true Saints lived out their lives in the full Light of Christ. Above all a Saint is and remains an individual. In following Christ he does not lose his individuality; rather, in Christ his individuality becomes more perfect, more pure and more complete.
As we study the lives of Saints we see how they followed Christ, and we learn how to follow Him in order that we too might grow unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (EPH. 4: 13). The life of a Saint is his personal experience in the Church of Christ, which we are privileged to share with him. From the Saint's life we can gain a new insight into our own Christian life. The Saints reveal to us how the Grace of God and the power of His love work in the lives of men. God transforms by His Grace and man's cooperation the most ordinary life into that of a real and great Christian Hero, or Saint. A worthless and wasted life, like that of Mary of Egypt, is changed into a glorious, a wondrous and luminous personality. These luminous and glorious lives become like the stars that shine in the heavens. They become fixed guiding stars for those who travel on land or sea or in the air in God's world.
In the early Church, when the memory of the Apostles, and even of Christ, was still very much alive, all members of the Church were called Saints. The faithful Christian is a saint not because his life is perfect or without sin, but because he has entered into and has become a participant in the perfect and good life of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. It is this life which is redeemed by Christ, and sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit. However, today we usually reserve the name Saint for those who are not only faithful Christians because they are members of the Body of Christ, but those who having entered into this life have made creative and abundant use of the Grace that God had given them in His Life. For this reason they have been glorified by the Church, and are set aside to be followed and to be called Saints.
There are as many kinds of Saints as there are ways of following in the Way of Christ. There are hermit saints, who left the world and lived in isolated areas where they meditated and prayed and fought the temptations and passions of the evil spirits. There are Priest saints - bishops, priests and deacons. They administered the Mysteries of the Church. They preached the Gospel. They taught others the Way of Christ by word and example. They lived in the world, but they never allowed themselves to become tied down to the world. There were saints from the ordinary walk of life who lived simple but holy lives. Finally, there were martyrs and sufferers, who made the supreme sacrifice for the Truth that is Christ. They all tried to walk humbly with God in the paths of Truth. They received the Crowns in Heaven that were promised by God: Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life (Rev. 2: 10). As we sing during the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony and of Ordination: "O Holy Martyrs, who fought the good fight and have received your crowns. . . ."
The Church reminds us in many other ways that we are all members of the family or Community of Saints. Our churches are always decorated with icons of Christ and the Saints, as well as events from the life of Christ and the Saints. These icons have sometimes been called "windows into Heaven," because they help us to gain a vision of the glory and beauty of God's Kingdom. The walls of our churches reflect the glory of God in color, like the Saints in Heaven reflect His Glory by their lives.
The Bishop, or Priest, or Deacon censes the church, the icons and the faithful during the services. In this ritual action we are reminded that we have been called to the saintly life, a life of purity and holiness, that we might worthily worship God. The Church also calls us to unite with the Saints in love and faith to worship God in the Holy Trinity. We who live in the world, comprising the Church Militant, unite with the Saints in Heaven, the Church Triumphant, to offer our common prayers of glory, praise and thanksgiving to God the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In the prayers of the Church we are reminded many times of this intimate fellowship which we have with the Saints; for example, the commemoration which ends many litanies, "the holy, all pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, with all the Saints, let us commit ourselves and each other and all our life unto Christ our God."
Our unity and oneness in Christ Jesus is so vividly expressed in the prayers and ritual of the Church, and which is so beautifully portrayed in the icons, is also graphically pictured (imaged) in the mystical offering of the Divine Liturgy where prayer, ritual, icons, man and angels unite in a harmonious symphony of worship of God.
In the Liturgy of Oblation, during which the offering of bread, wine and water is prepared for the Holy Communion, the Priest cuts from the first offering bread (prosphora) a large cube, called the LAMB of God, which is placed on the Paten. From the second offering bread the Priest cuts a pyramid of bread in memory of the Theotokos (Mother of God), and this is placed on the right of the Lamb of God. From the third offering bread the Priest cuts nine smaller pyramids of bread in memory of the nine ranks of Saints: first John the Baptist, then the Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the Teachers, the Healers and all the Saints, known and unknown. From the fourth offering bread small particles are taken in memory of the Living, and from the fifth in memory of the Dead. These are placed at the foot of the Lamb of God. In this graphic image of bread on the Paten the Church portrays the Offering of the Eucharist as an offering of the Church, the One Holy Body of Christ, which is offered up to God with these words: "Thine own, of Thine own, we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all." As we worship, so we offer ourselves up to God, with love and unity and oneness.
In the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Matrimony the Christian couple receive from the Church crowns in anticipation of heavenly crowns which will be given to all who have faithfully "walked in God's commandments with a pure heart." While wearing these crowns the husband and wife with their hands joined are led by the Priest around the table on which are the Gospel and the Cross. In this ritual action the Church shows the couple how they must walk with God in the way of Truth and with a pure heart if they are to be worthy of their high calling, with the Gospel and the Cross as the center of their lives together, for Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him (James 1: 12).
At the burial of a faithful Orthodox Catholic the Church places on his forehead a symbolic crown. The faithful Christian, having completed the course of this life, is now ready to stand before the dread judgement seat of Christ, and the Church prays that he will indeed be able to give a good answer, that he will be found worthy to receive the unfading crown of glory (I Peter 5:4).
When we study the lives of Saints we learn that no matter how great was the gift of God's power and grace given, each individual Saint had to apply the gift in his life. He had to make use of the gift, and this was never easy. He was beset by many temptations. The greatest of these was to follow the example of the wicked servant in the parable - to bury the talent; or that of the Prodigal Son - to waste it in riotous living. However, the true Saint was able to overcome temptations, and to win the battle against evil. It took all the great qualities and virtues of Christian living to win the battle: humility, patience, meekness, hunger and thirst for spiritual truth, mercifulness, purity of heart, peace of soul, courage, and patient perseverance. Each of the lives illustrates one of these virtues as they are revealed to us in the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Saints accepted God's Gift. They put it to test in their own lives. They passed the test, and received the promised reward: Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven (Matt. 5:12). Whatever their task, they had labored well in the knowledge that they served the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord they would receive the reward of the inheritance (Col. 3: 23-24).
Let us read their lives, and from them learn how to live the Christian life as it must be lived to be worthy of the Life-giver, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who purchased by His suffering and death our inheritance, eternal life. Christ our Lord prayed thus for those who believe in Him:
Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and those have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared unto them My name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:24-26).
Let us also, the faithful in the Church Militant, offer our prayers to God and call at the same time the Saints to come to our help, that they who stand near to God, by their prayers and intercessions, may purify, strengthen and offer before God our faithful prayers that we too may receive Eternal Life.
-Very Rev. Vladimir Borichevsky

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4. PROPHECIES OF ST. COSMAS AITOLOS

"... As at the time of Noah people did not believe but were mocking, until suddenly the wrath of God and the flood came and it drowned all the people. Likewise now also, my Christians, at the Second Coming of Christ people will not believe... The words I tell you are not mine, they are the words of the All-Holy Spirit... and whoever wants, let him believe. Nevertheless, each one is free and will do as he wants. I am doing my obligation..."
"... Prior to the Second Coming of Christ, the Antichrist will be born and he will do so many evils in the world, and will name himself the son of God and will stand as a king to order the whole world and do miracles, according to fantasy, to deceive people to confess him as Christ; and whoever believes in him he will promise goods, and afterwards he will mark them on the forehead... and it is better that they are tyrannized and be killed rather than to believe him and be marked..."
"... I believe that these things, my brethren, startled you... and I who tell them tremble and cower; but what can I do in that I have the obligation to reveal them to you? ... After these evils of the accursed Antichrist, the All-holy Cross will shine above in the sky..."

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5. NEW ITEMS FROM THE BOOK CENTER

 
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(POB) THE PRINCE OF BELVEDERE AND OTHER POEMS by Ephraim Figueroa.  A collection of simply written verses, from narratives to odes to limericks, acrostics and sonnets. These rhymes will delight young and old with their clarity, variety and charm.  151pp.  Cloth  d$17.00
 








S_tua.jpg(TUA) TELL US ABOUT THE ANGELS, GRANDMA! The Appearance and Miracles of the Angels by Georgia Hronas.  Ten brief accounts from the Old and New Testament and lives of saints told by Grandma to her Grandchildren at bedtime. A welcome addition to the "Grandma" series.  Line icons.  82pp.  Paper  e$13.00









S_sjl.jpg(SJL) ST. JOHN OF SHANGHAI and SAN FRANCISCO and other lives. The life and an account of the glorification of St. John, a miracle-worker who lived in our times. This volume also includes the lives of St. Isaacius the Younger of Optina, Matryrs Alexander and Antonina and St. Martinian the Monk.  62pp.  Paper  e$8.00








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